Monday, July 25, 2011

Bryan' medical update...CDCR responds with information

Good Morning all,
I'll start out by saying...Bryan is fine... Here is the timeline and description of events for today.. 

I will update this post as information becomes available, so just scroll to the bottom for the latest.

8:20 am - I called Medical this morning and left a message requesting a return call with Bryan's condition.  I then called Lt. Acosta, PIO of PBSP.  Lt. Acosta did confirm that Bryan was having chest pains, taken to the hospital for testing/treatment and has been returned the the prison Correctional Treatment Center (CTC) for observation.  He stated that Bryan should be back in his cell in a couple of days...  that puts me on schedule for visits with Bryan on Saturday and Sunday.

9:08 am  I spoke with Bryan's CCI (counselor and person responsible for handling his paperwork, etc) Amanda Hernandez, who just returned from vacation.  She was helpful, but behind the curve due to her absence.  My main question to her (related to her function as his counselor) was about his mail, would it be forwarded to the CTC?  She said that CTC stays are very short because they are being monitored just prior to returning to the unit.  If he needed longer or more detailed care, he would be in the hospital.  So that was good to learn :-).  She said his mail would be waiting for him in his cell.

Keep those postcards coming as they get through faster than letters.  For his address, email me at  Get well wishes from around the world would lift his spirits!

10:50 am I called Lt. Acosta asking for his assistance in contacting Medical.  He transferred me to Medical Department, resulting in a phone conversation with Dr. Sayer, the Chief of Medical at PBSP.  He confirmed Acosta's approx. time line as to the events.  He said Bryan was fine and was scheduled to return to his cell today.

As I spent last night educating myself about heart conditions and other complications of starvation, I was ready with specific questions, which once asked, he was required to answer.  If I didn't know what to ask, it would have been enough to say he was fine, but when I did ask for specific information , he was forthcoming with answers.  I will list the question and his answer:

Did Bryan have a heart attack, if not what was his diagnosis?  No, he had no heart damage, he was diagnosed with Hypophosphatemia, a low level of phosphorus in the blood, a side effect of starvation. Dr. Sayer put it into layperson's terms as his electrolytes were out of balance.

Is Bryan on any medication? No, none required.

What is Bryan's general condition? He is ambulatory (walking), eating, talking and returning to his cell sometime today.

Was there a Vitamin D deficiency? What did his blood workup show? He didn't have that right at hand but knew that it was a pertinent question (!).  I said if I needed that specific info later, I would call back.

What is Bryan's current condition and what is his prognosis? He kept insisting Bryan is fine and it is a closed issue.  That Bryan was going back to his cell and it is over.  I politely said, "Yes, I understand at this moment, based on available information, he is fine.  But it was all fine on Thursday, and then it wasn't."  I politely asserted that I just wanted to interface with his staff in a appropriate way... kind of "will I call you or will you call me if something changes". 

Given the original CDCR protocol of  "Persons with medical release of information for a particular inmate may call Medical and they will respond to our requests" , I said, I would call in to check as needed and promised not to make a pest of myself. (!)

12:20 pm I am still here in Crescent City, planning to stay through Sat and Sun (7-30/31) or until I can look Bryan in the eye at visit and see he is OK.

I am a nanny, I have the summer off -  I will not leave until I can visit with him and assure myself and all of you that he is out of medical danger...but remember,...

We must all continue pressuring for the needed changes.  Read the 5 core demands and sign the petition.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Serious Medical Complications- Heart Attack?

8 pm update at the end of this post....
When I was denied visit yesterday I did some calling to various sources who confirmed that on Thursday, due to complications of the hunger strike, Bryan had a heart attack.   Bryan is 38 and had no underlying health conditions when the hunger strike began.
He is not in his cell, and I have received no "emergency" calls, so I assume he is under medical care somewhere. Tomorrow, I can call CDCR Pelican Bay for more information.
After church today, I will edit this post with more information about how this played out...Again - no news is good news at this point.
8:00 pm update
I have no additional information.  Tomorrow (Mon) I will call medical to get as much information as possible.  I will check in Lt. Acosta, PIO and the Receivers Office, if needed.  
If the situation warrants it,  I will write a request to the Warden asking for permission to visit Bryan at the hospital or for a phone call if he is back at the prison infirmary.
Bryan was so concerned about the possibility of needing medical care for any reason, given the the track record of CDCR I will be advocating for him in every way possible.  Again, at this point, no news is good news.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Visit Denied Today

I am sorry to report that when I went to visit today it was denied due to "security concerns".  There is no definitive news to report to the family... no news is good news at this point.

Upon the recommendation of Officer Alanis, visiting room staff member, I will show up for visit tomorrow and see if anything has changed.  Perhaps I will have more to report about Bryan at that time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hunger Strike Leaders confirm that the Hunger Strike is over.

I just got off the phone with Carol Strickman (staff attorney for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children) and she confirmed that lawyers had inperson interviews with the leaders of the strike today.  She said the leaders did call off the Hunger Strike and consider it a success.

Some concessions were made, and a good faith statement by CDCR to review more changes to policy was accepted by the four leaders.  They felt that CDCR and it's treatment of prisoners has been exposed and that the people with continue to press for reform.  The leaders knew that the men were at a critical point, facing death and felt that needed reforms could be attained with out risking their lives.

I will visit with Bryan on Saturday and let everyone know how he is doing.  At 11:26 this morning Lt. Acosta, Public Information Officer of Pelican Bay, informed me that Bryan was taking nutrition at a medically appropriate pace to ensure he comes off the fast safely.  I thought it was just spin/a lie, but I now believe him.

Thank God!

This is your brother...Bryan


I found this picture of Bryan in high school posted to facebook by his sister.... Take away the hair (he shaved his head) and add a lovely mustache/clean goatee and he still looks as handsome and young as in this picture.  Because of policies prohibiting any pictures being taken at the Pelican Bay SHU, this is about how far back we have to go to get a picture of Bryan.

Take a moment to remember that each Pelican Bay SHU prisoner is someone's friend......

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Did I miss the Miracle?

I write this from my home in Seattle, having come home for a few days to attend to commitments.  I will return to Crescent City, my tent and Bryan by week's end.

This weekend was a blur to me... it was racing by time wise, but it seemed to move slowly.  There were reporters doing interviews and I did some radio call in shows.  It was encouraging and exhausting at the same time.

Saturday, Bryan was quiet but rallied as the visit went on.  He is most interested in negotiations, is there any movement?  But, when I told him that "they are sometimes at the same table, the lips are moving, words are coming out...but that's about it", he nodded and seemed to expect it.

Bryan is strong as a rock and has not wavered in his commitment to seeing this all the way through.  We talk of the body digesting its own organs, DNRs, refusal of force feeding.  I am on board to carry out his wishes to the letter should it come to that.

Our conversations are very intimate and strengthening.  We speak of beliefs, family dysfunctions, the phases of our personal growth.  I am Bryan's witness as he talks of his humanity, something that the Pelican Bay SHU has striven to destroy for almost 20 years. He is a beautiful and gentle man, thoughtful and caring, intelligent and brave --- he is a human being who does not deserved to be subjected to the tortuous conditions of PBSP SHU.

Next weekend, Bryan said that they can wheel him to visit if he is unable to walk...I am making arrangenents today so there is no "confusion" or "gosh, if we had known we could have had something ready" when I show up on Saturday for our visit.

We spoke of his family a lot this weekend.  As I am their link to Bryan, I am getting to know his family members and am able to carry their messages of love into him.

I had some time to reflect on issues involving this hunger strike, and spending time with a variety of people gave me new perspectives.

Did I miss the miracle?

I grew up in a small rural community in SE Minnesota of about 2000 people.  It was near Rochester with the  Mayo Clinic and an IBM plant about 15 miles away.  Our community was the typical mix of people whose families who had been there generations and of the professionals who commuted to work - townies and farm kids.

The first ethnic variation in our school was when Don joined our class as a Senior...he was Jewish.  The only change I remember his presence causing was that we couldn't sing Christmas Carols of a religious nature at our choir concert.  He was/is a great guy.

Growing up, my father was the college football coach at Rochester.  He recruited black young men from Washington, DC, to play at the school.  I remember talk about them dating the local white girls (1978) as there were "no black girls to date"..;, more of concern that they might leave the team and go back home than racial fears.  I had been around these black player as they often lived in the apartment in our basement...they were the stars of the team. I can sum up my childhood feeling towards them in one word...they were GODS. 

The 1980's found me in Seattle, WA which has a large Asian population.  I may have been unexposed to the racial tensions of the era, but neither was I predisposed to having negative feelings to people of other races.  I just met people and judged them on their individual merits.

So, the whole importance of  "the hunger strike is a show of racial unity" just didn't resonate with me in the beginning.  During my time in CA, I have visited with other families about what their lives ares like in So CA where race determines so much.  Bryan tells me about prison life and over time I have begun to see that, truly, the unity that this hunger strike has created is almost a miracle.

The more I ponder this new understanding, the more I have come to believe that the hard part is done.  The unity and faithfulness between the prisoners on strike is an example to all of us that only when there is combined effort toward the defeat of a common enemy can there be success.

Or in the words of Benjamin Franklin...."We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."


Friday, July 15, 2011

I was in prison and you came to visit me

As a little child attending Mass with my family, one of my favorite hymns was written around the theme found in Matthew Chapter 25. "Whatever you do for the least of my people, you do for me."

Jesus was  very specific:  I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

The lesson, as I understood it, was to offer what was needed with love, no matter the circumstances and without judgment.   And in doing so, I was showing my love for Jesus. 

Jesus embraced the most despised members of his society, people considered too evil, soiled or broken to be considered part of the community.  I have opened my heart to many types of persons with a variety of needs, but never in my life have I had direct contact with a more hated and abandoned class of people than Pelican Bay SHU prisoners.  These men are so hated that we are allowing an institution to strip them of every dignity and in our name engage in all manner of inhumane treatment.

My friendship with Bryan isn't about what he did or who he is about a man who is my brother and deserves to be allowed to be fully human, even as he serves out his punishment for his crimes.  I have read most of Bryan's file, which he mailed to me in full disclosure.  I have read his six year inactive review paperwork, I have read his appeal to the courts,  I have a clear understanding of his original crime and his prison activity.  And yet, in all of this, I see no justification for the conditions he endures in the Pelican Bay SHU.

As I go in to visit with Bryan on Saturday, day 16 of the hunger strike, I want to put aside thoughts about rallys, core demands, CDCR policies, retaliation and the horrors of the SHU.  I just want to visit my friend in prison and show him that he is worthy of love, compassion and humane treatment.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Turned Away at the Gate -or- Legal Representative Refused Entry

The law student scheduled to do two days of interviews with prisoners texted me last night when she arrived in Crescent City.  She and her friend had hitchhiked all the way from Portland, Oregon, where she attends law school.

I picked them up at McDonald's, brought them back to the horse ranch/campground where I have a "guest tent." We got to know one another and I showed them the amenities available at the Orman Ranch.  After they settled in, we visited about the HS, Solidarity Coalition actions, her upcoming interviews, and of course, Bryan.

Preparing for a prison visit is a delicate process: no underwire bras, no jeans, no cell phones-so I loaned her my watch, and all layered items must open in the front, so I loaned her my cardigan sweater.  I think I should just put together a Prison Visiting Kit in one size fits all to keep handy. With no car of her own, I drove her to PBSP.

We arrived at the gate at 8:45 am where, again, a CO who is familiar with me was working.  They took our IDs and asked us to park while they made a few calls.  As I am on Bryan's visiting list and not a legal representative, I am not allowed on the facility property except on visit day.  That is completely understandable and the same in Washington State DOC.

After about 15 minutes (9:00, the time her first appointment was to begin), a CO from the visiting staff came in a car to pick her up but still they were making calls.  At about 9:15, the visiting staff member came over and told her there was a discrepancy in her presented ID and the paperwork she filled out.  The standard student dilemma....permanent residence in California, going to school in Oregon.  She had filled out the CDCR paperwork presenting her CA information, but had technically surrendered her CA ID when she applied for an Oregon drivers license.

A huge disappointment to all, but as explained, this is a maximum security institution and all visiting paperwork must check out.  A slight hint of intimidation when a CO spoke the words, "you were not forthcoming with the information you presented on your paperwork," making the student feel that she was being accused of misrepresenting her identification intentionally.

All in all, the truth is that I have heard many stories from families that CDCR will deny visiting privileges for the smallest thing.  One mother said she was denied because she left off a misdemeanor that was dismissed over 35 years ago.  When she got a notarized copy proving it was dismissed, she resubmitted her application recently, and is still waiting for its approval.  Her son is on hunger strike and she can't visit him...all because of this small discrepancy.

In the interest of safety and security, the denial today was reasonable, but it is so intimidating and disheartening to families who just want to visit their loved ones and others, like this student, who want to assist.  I think my presence and knowledge of how the system works was helpful in explaining all of this as we drove away.  She was crying and upset that this unintentional error meant the men, expecting to be interviewed, would be disappointed.  I explained...they are used CDCR toeing the hardest line, often resulting in disappointment or worse.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Holding vigil for Bryan across the road from Pelican Bay State Prison

I just didn't know what to do with myself today, having heard the news about men refusing water.  I know that Bryan is one of them.  So I drove to PBSP and with a few daisys picked from the ditch, just stood there holding vigil.  I watched the entire afternoon group of CO come to work and the 1st shift leave.  I also stayed until all the administrators, who left at 5:00, could see me .  I had no hatred, but I would quietly wave at them and more than half (my guess) waved in a friendly, supporting way back.

How the Day Unfolded

At about 1:45 p, I went to the gate, where a member of the visiting staff was working.  As he sees me whenever I visit, he knows me as well as any up there.  I just showed him my ID, told him the men were refusing water and that in all probability Bryan was dying.  I reminded him that I had passed a security check in order to visit and that I was going to be on public property and would not block traffic.  I promised to be quiet and peaceful.  He had no problem with me being there, but he did ask for me to remind him who I visit.

About 45 minutes later, a couple of cars with some guys in SWAT team looking uniforms got out and set up a tripod with video camera and made a big show of taping me.  Hmmm, Capitol Hill police on horse-back couldn't scare me off in 2004 , so their "show" had little effect.  When they saw that I didn't leave, they just left the tripod under the care of the gate staff and left.

Someone driving to work shouted out the car window, "HEY JULIE" and gave me a big wave. One of the visiting staff ?...that made me smile.  Also an employee stopped and asked who I was holding vigil for.  This employee didn't know that the men had begun to refuse water.  The sympathetic response given was a much needed kindness  that late in the afternoon.

Several family members of men in the SHU called, very upset about the men refusing water.  I just listened and comforted.  I also spent some time on the phone with Bryan's Mother.  She is so strong and supportive.

Tomorrow I'll go back from 1:30 - 6:00, with a sign.  Hopefully some friends?  Also, California Prison Focus has lawyers, etc.  at Pelican Bay on Wed and Thurs interviewing prisoners.  They might stay at the tent, I can give them a ride to the prison and just be at their disposal, whatever they need.

I felt powerless, but now I feel that I took an action that let everyone from the prison who saw me know  ...This is where I stand, in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike.

He's Dying.......

This is Bryan !!! PLEASE READ

I received this update directly from Ed Mead, the editor of the California Prison Focus paper, with whom I have been in direct contact from the beginning:

Updated News Item on Hunger Strike:
Tuesday 8:30 AM: According to a SHU nurse, things are bad at Pelican Bay. The prisoners have not been drinking water and there have been rapid and severe consequences. Nurses are crying. All of the medical staff has been ordered to work overtime to follow and treat the hunger strikers. As of Monday, there were about 50 on C-SHU and 150 on D-SHU. They are not drinking water and have decompensated rapidly. Some are in renal failure and have been unable to make urine for 3 days. Some are having measured blood sugars in the 30 range, which can be fatal if not treated. They have refused concentrated sugar packs and ensure. The staff has taken them to the CTC and given them intravenous glucose when allowed by the prisoners, but some won't accept this medical support. As of Monday, no one has been force fed with a nasogastric tube. A few have tried to sip water but are so sick that they are vomiting it back up. Some of the medical staff is freaked out because clearly some of these guys seem determined to die. Not taking the water is crushing the staff because the prisoners are progressing rapidly to the organ damaging consequences of dehydration.

I know for an absolute fact based on my in person conversations with Bryan that he is refusing water at this phase of the hunger strike..... 

May God have mercy on us all for allowing this to happen.....this is is our doing..... our elected officials used our tax dollars to create the SuperMax prison system, and the evil of that place has driven the men to this change the system or die situation .... and my friend Bryan is dying now.   

Also from Ed Mead via email to me:

Below is a letter from a PBSP Hunger Striker. Here is the letter from Chad Landrum:

“It’s been a difficult and uphill battle, a lot of brow-beating and direct debate, but as it stands all are participating on a limited basis. Some, including myself, are going “indefinitely”… victory or death! I ask that you and those necessary are aware of our participation. Geographically we are isolated from the main SHU facility and PBSP will try to isolate and restrain our info from getting out. We are in A-Z. Also, as you know, I’m sincerely sick with end stage liver disease (ESLD) and a severe case of related diabetes. I’m going to end up in the hospital almost immediately and will be effectively isolated. Due to my dedication to the struggle I will continue with my strike. I won’t know when to stop. If the demands have been met in whole, negotiated part, etc. I will not take the cops’ word for the pigs have proven their word to be hollow. I will need the word of you or your outside support. Likewise, please keep those convicts at the heart of this struggle in D short [corridor] abreast of my circumstances (most know me as ‘Ghost’ or  ‘Landale’). Hopefully the situation doesn’t deteriorate to this. What that I end this letter with the words of Ulrike Meinhof [of Germany’s Red Army Faction], ‘Protest is when I say I don’t like this or that. Resistance is when I see to it that things I don’t like do not occur.’”

Chad Landrum #J-53747
Pelican Bay State Prison
A-2-114 – MED/SHU
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, CA 95531


My friend, Bryan is in the D2 Short of 150 who are dying at this very moment...Please call the Governor Brown and CDCR Sec. Cates...

Call Every Day!

Gov. Jerry Brown (his line is always busy)
(916) 445-2841

Secretary Matthew Cate (I always get through on this number....and called just now, call him first)
(916) 323-6001

Call and say this:
“Hi my name is _____. I’m calling about the statewide prisoner hunger strike that began at Pelican Bay. I support the prisoners & their reasonable “five core demands.” I urge the CDCR to negotiate with the prisoners immediately & in good faith. Thank You.”

I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.
-Matthew 25:36

Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 11 - We Are the Government

A recent postcard from Bryan:


"When one spends each day naked and crouching in a corner of a cell resembling a pigsty, staring at such eyesores as piles of putrefying rubbish, infested with maggots and flies, a disease ridden chamberpot or a blank disgusting scarred wall, it is to the rescue of one's sanity to be able to rise and gaze out of a window at the world...."  Bobby Sands, Republican News, Nov.25, 1978

It was not by accident that the men and women who designed and built this place, did so with the elimination of windows.  Every aspect of this place was designed to break the spirit and the mind.  I haven't risen and gazed out of a window at the world in over 10 years....others here in over 20 now.  Is it really 2011?   ~Bryan

And so it more cheery attempts to distract him from prison reality, no more chatty conversations about esoteric topics,  Bryan wants to hear news about his family/ friends and about Hunger Strike events and progress.  

Bryan is in this hunger strike until the organizers call it off because there is reasonable movement towards the meeting of their demands or he dies. He will not consent to force feeding, but they will probably do it anyway. But still he will resist...and I will stay by his side.

Because I am in Crescent City, our mail has been fast, about 4-5 days for postcards, so I communicate during the week on 4x6 index cards. The visiting process has been normal so far. That's the good news.

The bad news....They saw no medical attention at the SHU until HS Day 7, and by Day 9 Bryan had lost 17 lbs. The CDCR is already failing to follow their own HS policies. He is suffering from sleep deprivation as starvation can cause insomnia.  He hasn't even enough energy to pick up a pen to write. He just lies there and waits....and suffers. His kidneys and back hurt, his head aches... but he is emotionally strong and committed. Bryan is willing lay down his life so that this insanity called solitary confinement/sensory deprivation will come to an end.

The CDCR is starting to move towards "conversations" that hopefully will lead to negotiations with prisoners.  This matter is in the hands of an elected governor and the secretary he appointed. As our public servants, they institute policies and spend our tax dollars.  Is this what "we the people" want?

The men are doing their part, now we must do ours...we must apply political pressure to get CDCR to negotiate by calling Governor Brown and CDCR Sec. Cates...EVERY DAY.

Here is the script suggested by California Prison Focus ( , part of the Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition:

Governor Brown (916-445-2841)

CDCR Sec. Cates (916-323-6001)
Call Every Day!
Call and say something like this: “Hi, my name is _____. I’m calling about the statewide prisoner hunger strike that began at Pelican Bay. I support the prisoners & their reasonable “five core demands.” I urge the CDCR to negotiate with the prisoners immediately & in good faith. Thank You.”

Please call today.  Post to facebook, text or tweet and ask your friends to what you can to flood the phone lines of Gov. Brown and Sec. Cates.

Please -- Bryan's life depends on it.  I thank you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You Are Not Alone -or- Let Me Entertain You

When times are hard, there is something comforting about having a loving soul just willing to be present, to walk beside you as things unfold. 

I have learned from working with wounded soldiers, families in crisis and now hunger striking prisoners that often I can’t change the reality of their situations, but I can taking their minds away from the pain. I can make things a little better, just for the moment.

Sometimes I entertain, just by tell stories of my life, my kids, my pets and the like.   I actively take the lead in providing something else to think about other than the situation.  Usually things start this way with shy people.  Bryan let me do a lot of talking in the beginning, he had so many questions.

Another way to help suffering people is to distract by getting them to tell me stories about their lives.  For instance, I asked Bryan what he used to do on the 4th of July when he was a kid.  He launched off into a wonderful story of the huge family celebrations in Texas, complete with homemade ice cream and the kid’s fishing contest.  All I had to do is listen, smile and prompt with a question every once in a while.  The most wonderful thing about this is that for the duration of the story, his mind was back there, once again that happy 10 year old, frantically trying to catch the most perch.

As a continuation of my last post, here are the pictures that I took to visit to share with Bryan.  I am also able to send them in by mail. He feels guilty that I am here, investing all this time and effort for him, but I explain that it is my calling to be where I can make a difference, even if that difference is only to one person…. And Bryan is my one person at this moment in time.  

Through these pictures, I wanted to give him a glimpse of my reality here in Crescent City so he would know that I not at all put out.  This is not my first road trip/camping adventure in support of a worthy cause!

Here are the pictures I shared with Bryan on Monday and the approximate commentary:

My tent is about 24’x16’ plus a screened vestibule, larger than TWO cells in the SHU.  

My cot and teddy bear.

Tiffany, the Birthday Hamster.  She is my dwarf hamster, who is along for support.  I call her the “Birthday Hamster” because as a nanny, I would bring her to the house for the kids to play with, but only on the occasion of a birthday.  They love her!  So do I!


Here I am at Pebble Beach, just outside of Crescent City, CA

 A view from Pebble Beach Road, Crescent City, CA

This is my Cellie, as in cell mate.

Here is the fun part of this blog.  This is my teddy bear….Who needs a name.  I asked Bryan if he would come up with a name for my bear…perhaps talk through the steel door to his friends (they can do that with difficulty) and take suggestions.  He looked amazed and shocked -  like any typical man asked to engage is some sort of female silliness - and said he could never do that!  I have it on good authority from some of the other wives visiting their husbands that their men would almost certainly submit names.  So we’ll see.

Getting men to name a cellie is easier than getting them to name a teddy bear, so the contest is called, “Name Julie’s Cellie".  

It is this sort of “out of the box” activity that distracts and entertains my incarcerated friends, they always seem amused…which is good because they are usually laughing with me and not at me…either way, while they are laughing, they are free.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

He calls me Kind Lady

Update from yesterday (Day 2):  After visit yesterday I saw  Native Americans dancing in regalia directly across the the street from the Pelican Bay State Prison gate.  I shouted out the window that I was taking a picture to send in to the men inside and the dancers all cheered.  Today, Bryan said he could hear the drumming and singing from his concrete yard yesterday but didn’t know what it was all about.  I have discovered we can bring up to 10 pictures into visit, so I am taking this one in Monday plus others to be posted here tomorrow.

Just for interest and to get a glimpse of Bryan and his writing style, I would like you to see a postcard he sent to me last January.  Note the PBSP stamp and date stamp Jan. 7, 2011

Early on Bryan began calling me Kind Lady.  I would say that is pretty close although I like to pretend I have an “edge” to me.  Maybe being an advocate for prisoners and their families in the Washington State Department of Corrections makes people in my social circle look a bit sideways at me, but Seattle is the land of the proverbial activist so for the most part, folks just smile.

Day Three of the Pelican Bay SHU Hunger Strike:  Bryan was in a chatty mood today, opening up more and more as he realizes that I am here for him, to provide companionship and support for the duration.  Given that the last 16 years the CDCR has been dehumanizing him in every way possible, he finds it hard to accept any nice things I say about him and even seems shy about feeling worthy of any human kindness.

One fear that Bryan voices to me is that I am inconveniencing myself or hurting my life in order to be here.  So I always share with him that I take time to enjoy myself and keep telling him that being here isn’t dragging me down.  I told him that when I’m not visiting with him, I do what I normally do. It makes him feel better, knowing I am having a vacation and treating myself right.  I don’t feel guilty about having beauty, fun and joy in my life.   

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Day Two of the Hunger Strike...My Visit with Bryan

In 1989, Pelican Bay State Prison was cut out of a dense forest near Crescent City, CA. The highlight of the new super-max prison was the Security Housing Unit (SHU), the X-shaped building at front, where 1,300 prisoners are kept in long-term solitary confinement, under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation.

Image from :

I just came from visiting Bryan...he is looking strong and is totally committed to staying on this hunger strike.  He has a sense of focus and is at peace with this action.  This is day two of the hunger strike and yesterday, day one, he was interviewed by a representative of California Prison Focus.  He told me he was nervous while waiting and spent his one hour of yard pacing back and forth and also when he was in his cell, until the interview time at noon.

Today, he said he was wiped out from that exercise and had learned his lesson about physical activity during a hunger strike.  He has a plan to stay hydrated...he put himself on a strict hydration schedule of one pint of water every two hours for a total of eight pints per day.  That's one gallon per day or 3.78 liters for his European friends.

I suggested to him that he apply the same forethought to his exercise/exertion.  Perhaps allow himself small amounts of walking as needed, maybe even schedule it out.  The "How to Hunger Strike" info I sent says to keep moving around to a bare minimum to conserve energy.  He said when he goes to yard instead of walking he will bring a book and sit down to read after his 15 minutes of walking.  Good!

I know this blog began with printing Bryan's letters, but I need to bring this up into real time so I will be putting his previous letters into a new blog called "Skin in the Game".  I have found when I want to understand a different culture, whether its a foreign country, the military or prison, the best way to get a real glimpse into a new world is to get a pen pal.  Most of the letters up until May 8 were, "what did you think of that book" type of chatter between friends getting to know one another, but slowly he would reveal here and there the truth about his situation in the SHU.  In the letter below, he drops it all on me.  I would like you to hear in his own words a description of why he is joining the hunger strike. After the letter below, I will probably excerpt past letters from time to time here, but for the most part, the focus of this blog will be on the here and now.

This is the 5-8-11 Letter in which Bryan finally told me the whole truth:

Sun. 5-8-11

Dear Julie,

Wanted to write you a quick letter and thank you for the Easter card and letting me know everything that was going on in the life of Julie.  :-) Hope you had a nice Easter Vacation and a fantastic time in the heart of the old Confederacy.  And as a Mother with a capital “M” I hope you had a really nice Mother’s Day today.  I’m sure my dear ol’ ma had a terrific day as she is a HUGE Dallas Maverics fan and they crushed the Lakers by 36 this morning on their way to a series sweep.  I know I just spoke in a foreign language right there to you but trust me it was a good thing for moms.  :-)

OK, on a much less upbeat note I’m very sorry to hear that your loved one had such a set-back.  I’m glad to hear that you found the right place within your faith to find peace with it all.  I know from our visits and letters that it is your rock.  I tend to lean inwards, Mr. Macho, but will admit that I’ve been “all over the place” for the past couple of months.  Several of us were litigation our denials by the prison (I.G.I. – Institutional Gang Investigators / Sacramento) to release us from SHU on the six year inactive review process.  The Courts have denied every one of them.  I just got mine back not too long ago for failure to show cause.

So where to now?  We honestly thought that the Courts would see how corrupt the 1030 system is (a 1030 is a confidential informant’s or debriefer’s statement saying you “did” this or that).  So no relief here with the institutional appeal process, no relief in the Courts and CDCR’s deaf ear to any public outcry behind keeping men in solitary confinement under these type of severe conditions for decades on end…literally.  We’re right back to debrief or die here.

Therefore after long and serious deliberation a large group of us have decided to go on a hunger strike as of July 1st.  You know me well enough to know that I am in NO WAY suicidal, nor do I wish to harm myself in any way.  But collectively we feel as though we are already dead under these conditions of extreme isolation and deprivation.  I’m personally willing to go to this extreme in order to prove my desire to live.  This is not life Julie…period.  We are here for one reason only, our refusals to debrief. (emphasis mine)  I’ve had no serious write ups in almost a decade.  I have friends here who have 20-25 years in clean.  Why are we here?  Because we’re “labeled” as gang members?  What about the other 100,000 labeled gang members on Cal. main lines?  They can’t justify this Julie.

So why am I dropping this on you?  Well, frankly I have no plans on telling my family that I’m about to participate in this protest…fully committed.  CDCR has a policy of force feeding , but we are prepared to carry on unbroken even through such an extreme measure for however long it takes to change these conditions.  If  I hadn’t already went deep within myself to know that my mind was prepared to take on this responsibility (to see it through) and that I was one hundred percent committed, I would never write to you in this way.  But I am ready.  So I’m asking you if you would be willing to be my “monitor”?  I have no idea what lies at the end of this road, but I do know that between here and there I will need someone in my corner who’s willing to call and monitor my condition and make sure that I am treated right once I’m reduced to a weakened state.  I need to know if you would be willing to do this for me.  If so, I’d be forever grateful but on the other hand I also fully understand that it is a lot to ask of a friend and that you may very well be philosophically opposed to such an action or religiously opposed.  In which case I certainly would understand and would never allow your denial to harm our friendship.  Please let me know how you feel about it in case I need to start looking for a second or third.

Ok kind woman, I know this one was probably a shot out of the blue but the go date for this peaceful protest is just around the corner now and I really need to start getting my ducks in a row.  I’m including a postcard for you so you can let me know you received this letter.  As always I send you, your girls and loved ones my utmost respect and best wishes.  Know that I am well and strong.

With Utmost Respect,